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RCMP official calls for debate on hate speech law after probe of controversial imam ends without charges

The RCMP is warning of a growing number of cases of public speech that could incite hatred and is asking whether it has the legal tools to counter the trend.

RCMP Chief Superintendent Karine Gagné told Radio-Canada that while she wouldn't comment directly on the case of controversial imam Adil Charkaoui — who gave a speech in Arabic in Montreal late last year in which he called on Allah to «kill the enemies of the people of Gaza» — she believes it may be time to revisit Canada's laws on hate speech, which date from the early 2000s.

Following an RCMP investigation, prosecutors in Quebec chose not to charge Charkaoui.

Gagné, the head of criminal investigations for the RCMP in Quebec, said international events like the war in Gaza now have swifter and more immediate impacts on local communities.

«There is an evolution when it comes to international events, the speed at which we receive information. It's instantaneous. In 2002, it wasn't like that,» she said.

Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani told Radio-Canada he's also concerned about the spread of hatred in Canada and is open to changing the Criminal Code based on the opinion of experts.

On October 28, 2023, during a speech at a pro-Palestine rally in Montreal, Charkaoui denounced «Zionist aggressors» and called on Allah to «kill the enemies of the people of Gaza and to spare none of them.»

The speech was denounced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault, among others.

A complaint was filed with the Montreal Police Department but the RCMP quickly took over the matter.

Several sources said the RCMP took on the investigation after police authorities determined the imam's words could have raised issues related to national security and anti-terrorism

Read more on cbc.ca